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May 17, 2006

Tony Blair on Animal Rights Protesters

This week's Sunday Telegraph featured an opinion piece by British Prime Minister Tony Blair in favor of The People's Petition, which supports animal research in the UK:
Prime ministers don't often sign public petitions. After all, they usually either criticise the Government or demand priority treatment for a specific cause.

So announcing that I am to add my name to the on-line petition in support of animal testing when necessary is something of a break with tradition - and a sign of just how important I believe it is that as many people as possible stand up against the tiny group of extremists threatening medical research and advances in this country....

...This week underlined why the time is right for such a show of public support. The appalling details of the campaign of intimidation - which include grave-robbing - show the depths to which the animal extremists are prepared to stoop. The letter-writing campaign just launched against GlaxoSmithKline shareholders shows why we must support and protect individuals and companies engaged in life-saving medical research.

It is research which has helped hundreds of millions of people through vaccines to eradicate mass killers such as smallpox and medicines and procedures to treat incurable conditions like heart complaints. Research, too, which holds out the hope in tandem with other scientific advances such as genetic modification of extraordinary breakthroughs in treating and preventing diseases as varied as cancer, muscular dystrophy and Alzheimer's....

...Britain, of course, has a proud history of animal welfare and protection. We should be more assertive about one of the very toughest licensing and control regimes in the world which is being tightened continually as new replacement procedures become available. Testing on great apes including chimpanzees, gorillas and orang-utans is banned here. In 1998 this Government outlawed testing of cosmetics on animals.

The result is that experiments involving animals are subject to the tightest restrictions and monitoring. No animal procedures are allowed unless it can be demonstrated to an independent panel that the research is essential, that there is no realistic alternative and that any suffering is kept to an absolute minimum.

The article feels a little too much like a ploy to please his supporters in the pharmaceutical industry, but as animal rights activists continue to intimidate animal researchers in the UK, Blair's message is one that needs to be heard. For more background on the issue, check out this, this, this, and this.

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